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I’m Andrea. I like to cook and bake and take photographs and write about life. Welcome to Bella Eats, where I share these passions of mine with you. I’m glad you’re here.

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Saturday
Apr172010

to satisfy all cravings

My heels hit the pavement with a muffled thud that keeps time with the music streaming in my ear.  I've been fussing with the wire to my headphones, trying to rearrange the line moving down the inside of my shirt to the iPhone in my hand without losing my balance and accidentally stepping out in front of a car.  Frustrated, I finally pull the plugs from my ears and wrap the cord around my wrist, content to let my feet provide base to accompany the chirping birds' melody as I finish my jog.

I’ve only recently started running again, pounding the pavement on my neighborhood streets as much for the fitness benefits as for the opportunity to get outside and absorb the beauty of my environment. Running and I don’t really get along (you can read a bit about that here, from the old Bella Eats) so my mileage is pretty light and my pace is fairly slow. I typically try to distract myself either with a talkative buddy or a good Pandora station on my iPod, but lately have found that my surroundings are distraction enough.

In the last few weeks I’ve witnessed the transition of dry, yellow lawns into luscious, chartreuse carpets speckled with sunny dandelions and dusty purple violets. I’ve waited patiently for the lilac bush at the top of one long, steadily-sloped hill to come to bloom and finally, just last week, was able to stop for a few deep inhales of oh-so-sweet perfume from its clumps of delicate blossoms. As my feet pad-pad-pad the concrete sidewalk I’ve found my head spinning in all directions to absorb freshly-mulched flower beds that first showcased crocuses in mid-March, revealed daffodils two weeks later and tulips two weeks after that. The ethereal quality of each April day is enough to entice me to lace up my shoes and walk out the door, always excited to see what’s changed in the few days since I last plodded around the neighborhood.

As I peak the last small hill before the intersection one block from my house I am hot and sweaty, my skin bright pink and glistening with tiny beads of moisture. I reach the corner and slow to a walk, raising my hands to the top of my head and taking in a few deep, slightly ragged breaths. The breeze picks up just then, sweeping through the branches overhead to send a cascade of browning cherry blossoms swirling towards the ground. This is the last of them, the white and pink flowers have been slowly pushed out by darkening green leaves over the last couple of weeks. I’ll miss the bright, cottony treetops, but now we have floppy dogwood blossoms and bright fuchsia azaleas to admire. And after that there will be wild sweet peas and multiflora rose, both lending the air surrounding Charlottesville with the sweetest scent you can imagine, making the deep, ragged breaths at the end of a run a bit more tolerable.

The sun is setting now, giving the golden evening light a hint of green as beams filter through the new growth on our backyard trees. I stretch on the back deck for a few minutes, sinking my hips deep into a lunge as the Spring breeze brushes over my still-damp skin, sending a little smattering of goosebumps up my cooling arms. It’s going to get chilly overnight, despite the mid-day temperature of 65-degrees.

This is so typical for Charlottesville this time of year - daily temperatures that swing from the 30's to the 70's and back in just 24 hours' time.  It calls for a little planning in the morning, a layering of clothing to be sure you're warm enough when you walk out the door but not too hot when you step out for lunch.  It means watching the forecast carefully to be sure that those plants that spent the Winter indoors and "just want a little sunshine!" on the back deck are brought in before the air turns too cool. It also means preparing meals that satisfy a plethora of cravings, from light and bright to comforting and warm.

As I finish my stretching and head inside my nose absorbs the scent of chicken braising in a bath of milk, lemon, sage and cinnamon.  There is soup too, a zippy puree of Winter-Spring veggies.  I am glad that I thought to start dinner prior to my run, because although standing in a hot kitchen prepping dinner sounds miserable right now, in thirty minutes the cool air slipping through our windows will have me wanting a warm and comforting meal.  A warm and comforting meal that is, at the same time, light and bright with the promise of Spring.

This soup is perfect on these Spring days with nights that feel closer to Winter. The parsnips are strong, so if you're looking for just a hint of the root I'd reduce their amount to 1/2 pound and up your potato count to 3.  Be sure to add the squeeze of lemon at the end, it really makes the asparagus shine.

Creamy Asparagus and Parsnip Soup
serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced to 1-inch chunks
  • about 3/4 pound parsnips, peeled and diced to 1-inch rounds
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, chopped to 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4-5 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon

Method

  1. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes, parsnips, onion, garlic, and asparagus and stir to coat with butter.  Cover pot and let veggies sweat for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes and parsnips are slightly tender.

  2. Add white wine to pot and stir to deglaze bottom of pan if there are any bits of veggie stuck.  Add the chicken broth, enough to just cover all of the vegetables.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes and parsnips are fully tender, another 10 minutes or so.

  3. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree the vegetables until you have a smooth, creamy consistency devoid of any chunks.  Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, to taste.


This chicken is everything that everybody has raved about.  Moist and flavorful, it is wonderful on its own dressed simply with the sauce created from the braising liquid.

Braised Chicken in Milk
recipe from Jamie Oliver via Whitney in Chicago and The Kitchn
serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 pound organic chicken
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 stick of butter
  • olive oil
  • cinnamon stick (mine was about 3 inches in length)
  • handful of fresh sage leaves, removed from stem
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 10 cloves of garlic (I removed the skin)
  • 1 pint milk

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 375*.

  2. Rinse and thoroughly dry your chicken.

  3. Rub your chicken down with sea salt and black pepper, evenly and thoroughly.  Heat a large oven-proof pot on your stove top and melt the stick of butter and a glug of olive oil together.  Place the chicken in the pot, breast-side down, and fry until golden brown.  Turn bird to all sides to get even, golden color.  This should take about 10 minutes.

  4. Remove the bird from the pot and place on a plate.  Discard the remaining butter and oil.  Put the bird back in the pot (don't mind all of the little brown bits at the bottom of the pot, they will add tremendous flavor to the final sauce) and add the rest of your ingredients.  Place the pot in the oven, covered, and cook chicken for 90 minutes.  Baste with the cooking juices whenever you remember (which I did 2 or 3 times).  If you think about it, remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking, so that the skin will crisp up a bit.  If not, no biggie.

  5. To serve, pull all of the neat from the bones and divide amongst 4 plates.  Be sure to siphon up the juices in the pot including the curds, which I know look weird but add so much flavor to the sauce.  I put the sauce in a jelly jar and shook it really hard, to help incorporate those curds into the liquid so that they didn't look so funny on my chicken.  Spoon the sauce over the pulled chicken and ENJOY!

Be sure to fish out all of the garlic cloves from the pot when the chicken is done.  Spread them over thick slices of chunky bread, and swoon!

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Reader Comments (20)

i bet virginia is beautiful this time of year. i should arrange a visit soon. did you know jessica is living near my dad like an hour outside of charlotte/ im sure she would love to go visit you. love you

04.23.2010 | Unregistered Commenterangiismyname

I'm trying to get back into running after a layoff, too, so it's comforting to see some of my thoughts and feelings about it mirrored here. You really capture the whole experience beautifully! (And I may have just had breakfast, but I'm pretty much salivating for this perfect post-run dinner after reading your words.)

04.23.2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaddie

You take really beautiful pictures! Any useful tips??

04.23.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKara

Gorgeous photos Andrea!!

04.23.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKath

First, this post made me miss living in Charlottesville. I bet the Farmer's Market is packed with wonderful things right now, too! The minute I saw the chicken recipe, though, I completely forgot about my yearning for Cville and am now just dying to make this chicken. What a lovely and simple way to put a twist on roasting a whole chicken! Thanks for the recipe and beautiful pictures.

04.23.2010 | Unregistered CommenterCalvine

The chicken looks delicious! I'm kind of afraid to cook meat, much less a WHOLE chicken, but I'm willing to learn. I will at some point.
Your photos look like they belong in Real Simple :-)

04.23.2010 | Unregistered Commenterannecalista

What an incredibly beautiful post! I should get my mom to put something about that in your cameo in the book. :)

Seriously, your photography is out of this world. Oooo! You could write a photography tips post! I would love you forever if you did.

04.23.2010 | Unregistered CommenterWiggs

I just love your photos!
Did you take classes? I would take classes from you if I could!
I just realized many of the comments you have received are related to your photography!
That recipe sounds delish!
I love to cook a whole chicken b/c it makes me feel like I am a "real" cook or a chef! haha!

This post was so relaxing, I felt like I was watching a movie while I read the first paragraph. And your photography is absolutely beautiful, makes me want to try + attempt that great recipe!

04.24.2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I have never been a runner nor ever thought I could (the boredom), but you write so beautifully and evocatively that I wish I could jump up and go outside right now... alas, I'm having toe surgery next week so running is off the agenda fo a long time.

Maybe one day I'll revisit this post and let it spur me outside, on a day when I can go running safely...

04.24.2010 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Ang - VA is beautiful, most of the year, and you are welcome to visit anytime. I didn't know that Jess was so close, if we head down that way we'll certainly give her a call!

Maddie - Good luck with continued running! It is really tough for me, but I find that I enjoy short distances and so am sticking with that. You just have to find what works for you!

Kara - Haha, lots of tips! Too many to write here, but perhaps I'll do a photo post soon. But the most important...practice!!!

Kath - Thank you, my dear!

Calvine - The market is wonderful right now. Not too full of produce yet but everybody is in such a great mood with Spring coming on at full force. It will be even better in a couple of months. Come back to visit!

Annecalista - Thank you for the very nice compliment! Cooking a whole chicken is really quite easy. I used to be very squeamish about cooking meat too, but with time and practice it has gotten easier. For the really creepy stuff I get my husband's help. :)

Wiggs - Oh, thank you! :) And yes, I think a photography post is in order, soon. But in the meantime, feel free to send me an email with any questions you have!

Steph - Thank you! I did not take classes, but would love to. There is still so much to learn! My biggest tip...practice!

Nicole - Oh, thank you!

Hannah - The boredom gets to me, but having a nice place to run really helps, so much. I absolutely cannot run on a treadmill, even with music or a t.v. right in front of me. But if the weather is nice, and the environment is interesting, I find it quite tolerable. :) Good luck with your surgery!

04.24.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

This is an amzing recipe - I have made it a couple of times. A twist on this lovely recipe is to add a few saffron threads and serve with coconut rice. Out of this world!

04.24.2010 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie

practice practice practice. so true!
I actually have a photo album on my FB page right now called "I got a new camera! Practice makes perfect"
I had an art show last weekend. I had to paint nonstop for a few months. now it is over I am going to def have way more time to play with my camera.
yippy!!

Beautiful pictures and an even more beautiful description of the surroundings you found yourself in as you started running again. Very descriptive indeed!

04.24.2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessy

I love this time of year too - and don't mind the swing of temperatures at all!

I am not a huge fan of parsnips, but in a soup, I believe I might just like it!

Thanks for sharing and your beautiful photography as always!

04.27.2010 | Unregistered Commenterbiz319

I'm not sure which I love more, this smashing portrait of spring (those temp swings, so new to me, but so very much like our new home) or this chicken. Or, just maybe, the nudge to run. Heck, I'll take it all. Just lovely.

04.28.2010 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Mmm... This all sounds incredible!

I love how you write. I can picture everything!

05.2.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlin

Our weather in Montana has been resisting Spring - snow, rain and hail - and that happens within the course of one hour! I wanted to make something for dinner last night that tasted and smelled like Spring, yet would provide warmth and comfort to keep the cold weather at bay. This was just the ticket - recreated your exact menu - looking forward to leftovers today!

05.24.2010 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie

Hi Jacquie,

Thank you for your comment! I am glad that you enjoyed the menu on your blustery day. :)

Thanks for reading Bella Eats!

Best, Andrea

05.26.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Your writing is beautiful. What a wonderful post!

06.3.2010 | Unregistered Commenterhundredtenpounds

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